Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Thinking About My Descendancy Research Plan

Like many researchers, I have a whole lot of "DNA cousins" who are 4th cousins or closer.  For instance, on AncestryDNA, I have 154 4th cousins or closer:  

Some of those "DNA cousins" have an Ancestry Member Tree, and some of them have done enough research back in time that we can find the common ancestors.  AncestryDNA tells me I have 89 Shared Ancestor Hints, but those include relationships all the way back to 8th cousins.

By my estimate, I have about 140 4th cousins or closer for whom I don't know who the common ancestors are.

So I want to do some "Descendancy research" to try to find those common ancestors so that when I see an AncestryDNA match, I can contact them via an Ancestry message and compare notes.

I've been thinking about how to do this.  I know that 4th cousins will have common 3rd great-grandparents, so my thought is to take each of my 3rd great-grandparents, do a Descendants chart, and find the descendants for whom I haven't done much research in my family tree.  My hope is that through some extended research that I can at least identify grandparents (into the mid-20th century) of living persons who may have done an AncestryDNA test.

Here's is an example:

I identified my 32 3rd great-grandparents, and then used the "Descendants View" in RootsMagic 7 to get a list of the descendants of each 3rd great-grandparent.

I could have done a "Descendants List" report (using Reports > Lists > Descendant List) also, and printed it out.  Here is an example:

Using the view or report, I can then identify families that I need to extend down to the mid-20th century if possible.

For instance, on the charts above, I can see that:

*  Abigail Seaver (1817-1899) married Samuel Monroe (1810-1875) and had two sons.  I need to find out if either son married and had children, and then go from there forward in time finding descendants.

*  Lucinda Seaver (1821-1899) married James Rockwood Bruce (1814-1884), and had three children, but I know a spouse for only one of them.

There are more candidates on this six page descendants list, and there are 15 other sets of 3rd great-grandparents to work on after this one.

What process will I use to investigate these descendants of my third great-grandparents?  There is some low hanging fruit:

1)  Review and search online family trees:

*  FamilySearch Family Tree - shared tree
*  Ancestry Member Trees - isolated trees
*  MyHeritage trees - isolated trees
*  Findmypast trees - isolated trees
*  WikiTree - shared tree
*  WeRelate - shared tree
*  Geni.com - shared tree
*  RootsWeb WorldConnect - isolated trees.

Using online family trees is risky, but they can provide leads that can be confirmed by finding records in online databases.  Some even provide the sources they used!

2)  Search record collections on online record providers like:

*  Ancestry.com - it also has Hints and Suggested Records when you look at a record.  This should find Find A Grave items also.
*  FamilySearch - it provides Record Hints for persons in the FamilySearch Family Tree
*  MyHeritage - it provides Record Matches for persons in your tree.
*  Findmypast - it provides Record Matches for persons in your tree.
*  AmericanAncestors
*  Mocavo
*  GenealogyBank
*  Google - search for online web pages or books that have entries for the target persons. This should find USGenWeb pages and RootsWeb message board and mailing list posts.

As I find records for these cousin families, I will add them to my RootsMagic tree, and include sources and notes as I find them.

I want to do these in an organized manner, so I am starting with my Seaver descendants and will move through my tree one set of 3rd great-grandparents at a time.

What other resources should I be using for this Descendants research?  Am I on the right track?  How have my readers attacked this problem?

Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver

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Debbe in Northern Nevada said...

Hi Randy, I also do descendancy research to find living cousins and have had the best results using obituaries. I use not only those on Genealogy Bank and Ancestry.com, but other resources such as the free obituaries at Legacy.com. Also, if I have a good idea where the family was/may still be, I search the online archives of the local newspapers--some free, other pay (often through ProQuest Archiver).

Once I have possible living cousins, I usually check Facebook to find if they have a profile, making them easy to contact. Another good thing about FB is that many people don't seem to be aware of (or else they don't care about) privacy issues--I've often been able to construct an entire tree using the "Family and Relationships" listed!

Karen said...

Don't forget to use the "shared matches" option. This allows you to build potential family groups among the descendants. The FAN method works here too. I've set up an excel spread sheet to help put these families together as I research. You may not find the connection with one person but you might with one of your mutual shares.

H600 Project Admin said...

Realize that, especially in ancestry, even ones that show as 4th cousins may not be a match. Have found it several times. Ancestry DNA is the only service that does not allow you to do segment and numerical match analysis. But there has been a slight break through recently. When you click on the name on the match list, you get a slightly more detailed screen on that match. If you click on the grey circled question mark next to the confidence, it tells you the match strength and number of segments. Not the longest segment but that is good info. Use the match strength to look up on the table wiki.h600.org/Consanguinity to see the likely (nominal, average) generation distance and thus likely relationship. For match strength longer than 20cM, this is often close. Also make sure to look at the common match last (or 3 way matches). Again, not common segments. But a start and indicates likely you all three share a common ancestor. After all that, if they still do not respond, I use your technique to find them and work up their ancestry using others trees or clues i find. Good summary on ways to work down though.

cleaverkin said...

Consider the possibility that some, if not many, of these "DNA cousins" are completely bogus. I've identified all my ancestors back to ggg-grandparents or further, and have done substantial descendant tracing (most of my research, actually). By comparing pedigrees with purported "DNA cousins" on Ancestry, there's no apparent overlap. As SurplusGadgets commented, you really need to have segment matching to compare DNA with any degree of reliability.

That said, the techniques for tracing descendants are pretty much the same as those for tracing ancestors - census records, marriage records, birth certs, obits (GenealogyBank was mentioned, Newspapers.com is also very useful), etc. Once you get forward far enough into the 20th century, Ancestry's U.S. Public Records along with sites like PeopleSmart.com can help to identify living family.

Lisa Louise Cooke recently did a Legacy webinar on this topic, and while I'm not generally a fan of her talks, this one was quite good.

anitab said...

Having recently done DNA testing at Ancestry, I find myself in a similar situation - so many 4th cousin matches! What you are describing is exactly what I need to do - thank you for sharing your process - sounds like just what I need to do!

Evangelic said...

Great article that puts the process in an organized plan. When I got my DNA results from Ancestry, I was befuddled. I didn't know where to start. I started doing surname searches and found that less than rewarding. What others have said about the degree of matching is true. I have found two, so far, distant cousins (by Ancestry's determination) that were MUCH closer. One was a third cousin.

Thanks again for your article. NOW I have a plan!


Anna said...

Quick question - I thought you used Family Tree Maker 14 as your main tree for your genealogy per your comments at the end of year/first of year about ancestry stopping Tree Sync and support for FTM14. Lately I see you giving instructions for RootsMagic on your blog and here you say several times that you use RootsMagic. Do you prefer RootsMagic over Family Tree Maker? Does it sync to any online trees? I know nothing about RootsMagic, but am certainly willing to learn if you think this is what we should do. I was under the impression that you thought we should "sit tight" and see what happens with FTM and ancestry.com. I value your opinion! Thanks!! Anna

Randy Seaver said...

Anna, I use RootsMagic as my main software program and do all of my work in it. I have used FTM 2014 and Legacy Family Tree 8 occasionally to take advantage of some of their capabilities. For instance, I make a GEDCOM in RM, import it to FTM with all of the media, and then sync the FTM tree to Ancestry so that the media goes into my Ancestry Member Tree. But I don't do that every day, or month, or year. I did it last in August 2014.

RootsMagic does not sync completely to any other online tree as a whole tree. It does sync persons and Facts to the FamilySearch Family Tree.

You may have confused me with my friend and colleague, Russ Worthington. He is the expert on FTM and his counsel is to sit tight and see what happens.

There are still some problems with GEDCOM import of an FTM file into RootsMagic. If you are going to switch, it's probably a good idea to sit tight on that one too. RootsMagic is apparently working on a direct import (not through GEDCOM).